Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting to the root: Carrot yogurt muffins

Raymond Carver's "What we talk about when we talk about love" is one of my favorite short stories and one of my favorite titles, ever.  It's a pretty typical Carver story. The central protagonists talk in spare, short sentences.  They drink.  Despite the lubrication of alcohol, the more they talk, the more blind they grow about themselves.

You'd think the answer is 'sex' when asked the question 'what do we talk about when we talk about love' but usually the real answer is what we talk about is ourselves, even when we are under the illusion of talking about another person.

Of course, I always find myself inserting into the blank: "What do we talk about when we talk about...."  What do we really talk about when we talk about marriage, the Superbowl, our pets, horses, cars, death...and food.

For some people, what they talk about when they talk about food is the fact that they perceive themselves as nurturers.  And I know that's not me, because I've had too many negative associations with the 'food as love myth.'  If I bought into the idea of food as love, as pure comfort, I wouldn't be cooking, I'd still be on the couch like I was as a child, snarfing my way miserably through the next program and only dreaming of the sunshine I was too tired, achy, and bloated to face.

There is also the idea that food is entertainment but I'm not sure I agree with that either. While I know this is heresy, as dreadful as a rider, actress, runner, and all of the various things I've tried in my life...I've never tasted a bit of food that was as good as a six mile run. Or being on stage. And certainly my worst ride (and as a truly terrible walk-trot-canter rider, I've had some bad ones) always tastes better than even the most ambrosia-like piece of chocolate...or even a freshly picked strawberry.  

For some, food is ideology.  But I'm not a "and we shall lie down with the lion and the lamb and all eat factory-processed seitan" together vegetarian or vegan--not a vegetarian or vegan at all, although I don't eat a lot of meat.  I fortunately don't have any crazy allergies or dietary restrictions so I'm not militantly against dairy or gluten or peanuts whatever unless someone has a genuine physical problem.  (Being grossed out by coconut and Jell-O doesn't count). I like to eat healthfully, but I'm creeped out by artificial sweeteners and I would rather eat a pat of butter than some weird substitute 'buttery spread.'

And if people eat differently from me, I tend to find that interesting rather than think: "oh, you're a bad person."  Some people I respect a great deal juice as a verb rather than chew, others still eat McDonald's on occasion.  I wouldn't want to eat either way, and I know what happens to my body when I do (whacked out blood sugar at either extreme) but I don't get the Internet flame wars about food.  Do you not know people in the real world who have consumed Pop Tarts when you're ragging on someone you saw in the supermarket buying a box? Do you seriously think that the government is trying to control your body because it wants your school to serve whole wheat pizza?  Seriously? 

I suppose for me, like almost everything, food is about story.  Name a food, and people will always have a story about it, good or bad.  I'm not entirely satisfied with how the story of my life, its larger narrative, is going in some ways, but stringing together small stories about food is one way to understand it.  Using things like love, like the body (animal and human), like sex and food seem like a more meaningful way to try to make sense of life than years, seconds, minutes, or even pairs of jeans we have worn.

I was introduced to carrot cake at age thirteen--it was the favorite cake of one of my favorite teachers, and that was my motivation to try it.  This is a healthy incarnation of carrot cake for a quick breakfast--it doesn't require grating the carrots and it's a good way to use up extra cooked carrots.  Each muffin has approximately 150-160 calories, depending on how you size them.

Carrot Yogurt Muffins

--yields 8-12 muffins--


1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 large, beaten egg
3/4 cup Greek yogurt (full fat or 2%)
1/2 cup cooked, mashed pureed carrots. (You can also substitute unsweetened carrot juice or carrot baby food, unsweetened and unflavored)


1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Line a muffin tin with 8-12 cups, depending on the size of the muffin you want.
2. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon.
3. Mix honey, egg, yogurt, and carrots.
4. Incorporate dry into wet mixture. Pour the batter into muffin liners and bake for 20-25 minutes until a toothpick can be extracted 'clean.'  Note that the cooking time may vary depending on the moisture of the carrots you use.


  1. Food as ideology makes me insane, primarily because what a person eats is so very dependent on their economic status. The idea that there's an "ethical" way to eat, as it pertains to people who wonder every month if they're going to be able to make the rent, is particularly odious to me.

    Pop-Tarts are interesting. They're surprisingly heavy for such a small food item, and I can actually feel my arteries hardening as I swallow. I would probably eat one if it was offered, but I wouldn't make a special trip to Target to buy a box.

  2. @flurrious--I think you have 'hit the nail on the head' of what I was trying to say, but was still feeling around the concepts--so much of 'what we talk about when we talk about food' pertains to money. How much money a person has to buy a particular item.

    It is easy to be ethically 'pure' if food is a very tiny portion of your budget. And while some 'food fads' like locavorism can be budget-friendly (like shopping at farmer's markets) not everyone has that luxury, because of where they live. Speaking as someone who did 'try' veganism, it now really annoys me when vegans who have the means to buy soy ice cream in fancy flavors and miso-infused seitan suggest that someone on a budget can survive on rice and beans, when quite often it really is more pleasant to at least eat tuna, cheaper cuts of chicken, eggs at such, and probably healthier and lower in carbs.

    That said, I guess must admit I am food-obsessed enough to be eating an organic breast of chicken as I write this--I eat meat rarely, when I can afford 'the good stuff' so that is my compromise :P